How to Improve Digestion and Overcome Candida Overgrowth
Do you constantly suffer from bloating or indigestion after meals? Are you always tired, irritable, or unable to think clearly? Does your skin break out into rashes or acne? All of these issues – along with many others – could be the symptoms of Candida overgrowth. Candida overgrowth is a common issue affecting adult women and men, and overcoming it requires a comprehensive attack plan.
What is Candida Overgrowth?
Candida albicans is a type of yeast that lives naturally in your gastrointestinal tract and other parts of your body. Usually, Candida doesn’t cause any problems, and it can even play a small role in assisting with digestion. The ‘good’ bacteria in your gut work to keep Candida yeast in check.
However, if the balance between your good and bad bacteria is disrupted, Candida can grow out of control. This leads to an infection known as Candidiasis and a host of nasty health issues.
Here are the five most common symptoms of Candida overgrowth.
1. Recurring Thrush or Urinary Tract Infections
Vaginal infections – also known as thrush – are a common symptom of Candida. The Candida yeast lives in the genital area, especially in the vagina. In fact, it’s estimated that around 75% of women will have a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. Half of those women will have one or more recurring infections.
Symptoms of thrush or vaginal yeast infections include itching, redness, and pain during sex. A thick white vaginal discharge is also common. Thrush can affect women and girls of all ages, although it’s unlikely to occur before puberty or after menopause.
Risk factors for developing a vaginal yeast infection include being pregnant, a recent course of antibiotics, diabetes or high blood sugar levels, and a history of STIs.
An overgrowth of Candida can also lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI). This is more common in the elderly, hospitalized, or people who are immune-compromised. UTI symptoms include burning on urination, a frequent urge to urinate, dark urine, strong-smelling urine, or pain in the lower abdomen.
2. Digestive Issues
While we all suffer from indigestion or bloating from time to time, constant discomfort after eating is a sign that all is not well in your gastrointestinal system. This is often due to an imbalance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria that live in your intestines.
Your good bacteria are crucial for the fermentation process that allows your body to break down the food you eat and absorb nutrients. They also help in the digestion of starches, fiber, and a number of other compounds.
However, if your gut is overwhelmed by ‘bad’ bacteria and yeast, you will likely experience digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea, gas, cramps, or bloating.
Yeast overgrowth is often responsible for an imbalance in the gut microbiome. It’s also associated with various digestive gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Moreover, several animal studies have shown that Candida colonization in the gut can lead to inflammation that promotes further colonization. This can lead to a vicious cycle in which low-level inflammation continues to support the spread of Candida and may even contribute to inflammatory bowel disease. Both inflammatory bowel diseases and Candida overgrowth are associated with increased levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines.
3. Fungal Infections of the Skin and Nails
Your skin and nails are also home to many species of beneficial bacteria that help prevent the Candida yeast from spreading. However, if a change to your environment or health status affects the temperature or moisture levels of your body, your beneficial bacteria may struggle to keep the Candida yeast in check.
Higher temperatures, moisture, and acidity can cause some bacteria and yeasts to grow out of control. This can be caused by certain climates or health conditions but also by cosmetics, soaps, and other topical skin care products.
Although Candida infections of the skin can affect any part of the body, its prime locations are the areas that are warm and moist. Most Candida infections are in the groin, armpits, or feet. Symptoms include itching and an angry rash.
4. Low Energy and Fatigue
Although fatigue is a common ailment in modern life, it’s also a symptom in Candida sufferers. There are many ways that an overgrowth of Candida yeast can contribute to low energy and consistent exhaustion.
When the balance of your gut microbiome is disrupted by Candida, your digestive function will be less efficient. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies because your body is unable to break down food properly. Low levels of vitamin B6, essential fatty acids, and magnesium are often linked to tiredness and fatigue. Deficiency in magnesium is often linked to fatigue.
In addition, a weakened immune system can also contribute to poor energy levels. If your gut microbiome is compromised by Candida yeast, it will not be able to fight off other invading pathogens and illnesses as efficiently. This can leave you more susceptible to infection and suffering from chronic exhaustion.
Some practitioners believe that Candida overgrowth may be linked to chronic fatigue syndrome.
5. Mind and Mood Problems
Mood swings, anxiety, low mood, irritability, poor memory, and brain fog are often attributed to hormones or stress, but that’s not always the case. Candida overgrowth is a major cause of mind and mood issues that can make life difficult.
Research has shown a gut-brain axis in which our brains are inextricably linked to your gastrointestinal tract. In fact, up to 95% of our serotonin (the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood) is made in our gut. Low levels of serotonin can result in mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and irritability.
It’s for this reason that most antidepressant medications work by blocking the brain’s serotonin receptors because this allows more serotonin to ‘stay’ in the brain.
An overgrowth of Candida yeast can suppress the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, by interrupting your body’s ability to create it. Candida also breaks down the wall of your intestines and gains access to the bloodstream where it can release toxic byproducts.
One of the most serious of these byproducts is acetaldehyde, which can also react with the neurotransmitter dopamine. This can affect mental wellbeing and lead to developing anxiety, panic attacks depression, poor concentration, and brain fog.
How to Treat Candida Overgrowth
If you have identified with the symptoms above, now is a good time to start treating the root of your problems: Candida overgrowth.
Diet is a major factor in overgrowth, so your treatment should begin by reexamining the foods you eat every day. Try to limit your intake of sugars and simple carbs, as these are the main ‘fuel’ for the Candida yeast. You should also add plenty of antifungal foods and supplements to your daily menus, such as garlic, oregano, coconut oil, and thyme.
Probiotics and fermented foods also help to re-establish the balance of good bacteria in your gut, which will help to counter a yeast overgrowth. This is particularly important following a course of antibiotics, as these can severely deplete the numbers of good bacteria in your gut.
Tips for Healthier Digestion:
1. Eat slowly and chew your food well to aid digestion.
2. Drink plenty of water to help with the digestion process.
3. Avoid eating large, heavy meals before bed.
4. Take time out to relax and reduce stress.
5. Exercise regularly to improve your digestive function and move your bowels.
In conclusion, Candida overgrowth is a common issue affecting many people, and it can have a significant impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Understanding the symptoms and causes of Candida overgrowth is the first step in addressing the issue. With a comprehensive treatment plan that includes diet, supplementation, and lifestyle changes, you can overcome Candida and improve your digestive health.